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This free course, Invention and innovation: An introduction, is for designers, engineers, technologists and anyone interested in designing and inventing. It is also for managers and consumers interested in innovation and technical change. The course will show you how design and innovation can create a more sustainable future. It will also help you understand how innovation comes about and will encourage thinking about environmental and social challenges for the future.
On completion of this unit, you should be able to:
- explain invention, design, innovation and diffusion as ongoing processes with a range of factors affecting success at each stage;
- explain how particular products you use have a history of invention and improvement, and appreciate the role that you and your family, as consumers, have played in this history;
- define key concepts such as invention, design, innovation, diffusion, product champion, entrepreneur, sustaining and disruptive innovation;
- explain the role of intellectual property in invention and innovation and list the various ways that inventors can protect their ideas;
- identify the range of reasons that motivate individuals and organisations to invent;
- explain the creative process by which individuals come up with ideas for new designs and inventions;
- explain the technology push, market pull, and coupling models of the innovation process and decide how well they offer a satisfactory explanation of the innovation process;
- identify and discuss the technical, financial and organisational obstacles that have to be overcome to bring an invention to the market;
- discuss the importance of choosing an appropriate design, materials and manufacturing process for a particular new product;
- explain the factors that influence how well an innovation will sell and how rapidly it is likely to diffuse into the market;
- give examples of disruptive innovations that can introduce a new way of operating in a particular industry, that can challenge existing companies and that can open up new markets for innovative products.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Part 1 Investigating the innovation process
- 2 Part 1: 1 Living with innovation
- 3 Part 1: 2 Exploring innovation
- 4 Part 1: 3 Inventing the telephone and living with the innovation
- 4.1 An explanation
- 4.2 When and where was the telephone invented?
- 4.3 Who invented the telephone?
- 4.4 What was innovative about the telephone?
- 4.5 Was the telephone invented in response to a need or because of developments in technology?
- 4.6 Was the telephone an immediate success?
- 4.7 Has telephone design changed over time?
- 4.8 Has the telephone led to any related or spin-off products?
- 4.9 A consumer's experience of innovation
- 4.10 What has been learnt from the history of the telephone?
- 5 Part 1: 4 Key concepts
- 5.1 Introduction to key concepts
- 5.2 Inventors and inventions
- 5.3 Designs
- 5.4 Product champion
- 5.5 Entrepreneur
- 5.6 Improver
- 5.7 Innovation
- 5.8 Dominant design
- 5.9 Robust design and lean design
- 5.10 Radical innovation and incremental innovation
- 5.11 Sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation
- 5.12 Process innovation
- 5.13 Diffusion and suppression
- 5.14 Compact fluorescents and new developments
- 5.15 Intellectual property and patents
- 6 Part 1: 5 Dead certs and dead ends
- 7 Part 1: 6 Self-assessment questions
- 8 Part 1: 7 Key points of Part 1
- 9 Part 2: Invention
- 10 Part 2: 1 How invention starts
- 10.1 What motivates individuals to invent?
- 10.2 Scientific or technical curiosity
- 10.3 Constructive discontent
- 10.4 Desire to make money
- 10.5 Desire to help others
- 10.6 What drives invention in organisations?
- 10.7 Business strategy
- 10.8 Need to improve product or process
- 10.9 Opportunity offered by a new material, technology or manufacturing process
- 11 Part 2: 2 How the process of invention works
- 11.1 Five steps to invention
- 11.2 Step 1 – identification of the problem
- 11.3 Step 2 – exploration
- 11.4 Step 3 – incubation
- 11.5 Step 4 – act of insight
- 12 Part 2: 3 Technology push and market pull
- 13 Part 2: 4 Preparing for innovation
- 14 Part 2: 5 Self-assessment questions
- 15 Part 2: 6 Key points of Part 2
- 16 Part 3: Innovation
- 17 Part 3: 1 Overcoming obstacles to innovation
- 18 Part 3: 2 Diffusion of innovations
- 18.1 Introduction to diffusion
- 18.2 Characteristics of the innovation
- 18.3 Characteristics of consumers and the market
- 18.4 MP3's diffusion depended on innovations in related areas
- 18.5 Government regulations and legislation
- 19 Part 3: 3 Sustaining and disruptive innovation
- 20 Part 3: 4 Phases and waves of innovation
- Part 3: 5 Self-assessment questions
- 22 Part 3: 6 Key points of Part 3
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
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Invention and innovation: an introduction
This unit aims to provide an understanding of invention, design, innovation and diffusion as ongoing processes with a range of factors affecting success at each stage. You will gain an understanding of the factors that motivate individuals and organisations to invent, and the creative process by which individuals come up with ideas for new inventions and designs, and you will gain an understanding of the obstacles that have to be overcome to bring an invention to market and the factors that influence the successful diffusion of an innovation into widespread use.
In Part 1 I invite you to look around at the technological products in your home or at work and consider their development history and their impact on the lives of you and your family. I then define the key concepts associated with the process of invention, design, innovation and diffusion.
Part 2 considers what motivates individuals and organisations to invent in the first place and how individuals come up with ideas for new designs and inventions.
Part 3 examines how technical, financial and organisational obstacles have to be overcome in order to bring an invention to the market. Once on the market a number of factors influence how well an innovation will sell.
This free course is an adapted extract from the Open University course T307 Innovation: designing for a sustainable future, which is no longer taught by the University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this
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This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Design and Innovation courses or view the range of currently available OU Design and Innovation courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 28th July 2011
Last updated on: Tuesday, 19th August 2014
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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